Development of Antiviral Drugs against Avian (H5N1) Influenza Virus

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Contribution to Book

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Recent Developments on the Avian Influenza (H5N1) Crisis


Jonathan P. Wong


Transworld Research Network

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The avian influenza H5N1 virus first emerged in 1997 when it infected 18 people and killed six in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the bird flu virus did not disappear like the SARS crisis of 2003. Instead, it re-emerged with a vengeance in 2003, when it has since killed more than 150 people worldwide, has cost the global economies in excess of US $15 billion, and has resulted in the culling of 150 million birds. These human, livestock and economic costs will grow exponentially if and when the bird flu pandemic becomes a reality. Today, as increasingly number of human clusters of avian flu deaths is reported, the world may be moving closer to another global influenza pandemic. This book aims at highlighting recent developments on the present global avian influenza virus crisis. The main emphasis of this volume is placed on better preparedness against a global pandemic. The importance in the lead role in the World Health Organization in the coordination of a pandemic preparedness plan can never been over emphasized. Rapid, real-time laboratory diagnosis of human cases from avian influenza infection will be valuable in initiating timely antiviral therapy and speed up disease isolation and containment. Recent progress in the development of conventional vaccine candidates, and improved vaccine production technologies is also addressed in this book volume. Preliminary data on the efficacy of orally inactivated heat-killed bird flu vaccine shows promise as effective vaccine but much work is needed to further evaluate its safety and efficacy. Critical research is needed more than ever for the development of novel antiviral drugs that potentially could be added to the arsenal of antiviral drugs to combat the challenges posed by the ability of the bird flu virus to develop drug-resistance and mutations. Pandemic and avian influenza viruses are also considered to be potential biothreat agents. Preventive measures to protect people against deliberate or accidental release of these deadly viruses should be considered and implemented where possible. The pattern and manner by which the bird flu virus spreads in wild and domestic birds brings a somber reminder of the difficulties and challenges in the disease outbreak containment. The editor wishes to express his heartfelt appreciation to all the outstanding authors for their invaluable contributions to this timely book volume. Special thanks are extended to Dr. S.G. Pandalai, N.J. Sudarsan, A. Gayathri of Transworld Research Network for the wonderful opportunity to make this volume a reality. The editor gratefully thanks Dr. Mary Christopher for her excellent editorial assistance. It is hoped that it would provide readers with valuable information that contribute to better education and enhanced preparedness against a future influenza pandemic.